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Cost-Savings in Higher Education: How HR Can Drive Savings for Faculty & Staff

by Caroline Boyland July 6, 2022

It can't be stated often enough that staff and faculty in the education space are the backbone of society. Professors, advisors, administrators, coaches, groundskeepers, cafeteria staff, health services, and every other profession that makes up an education system all play a critical role in creating an environment that empowers students of all ages to learn, grow, and prepare for the future.

In the higher education space, however, these employees are facing challenges like mass budget-cuts—resulting in burnout, salary decreases, and unhappy employees. In fact, according to the most recent 2020-21 Faculty Compensation Survey carried out by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), working conditions for faculty continue to worsen, and salaries are not keeping up with the rising cost of living.

Higher Education, Lower Salaries

For some background, the AAUP's Faculty Compensation Survey collected employment data at 929 higher education institutions. The data covered nearly 380,000 full-time faculty members, as well as senior administrators at nearly 600 institutions. The shocking results? For the first time since the Great Recession (2007-2009), real wages for full-time faculty members decreased. The average wage growth for full-time faculty members at all levels was the lowest in AAUP records since they started tracking annual wage growth in 1972. But when adjusted for inflation, the real wages actually decreased at over two-thirds of higher education institutions. The overall spending power of college and university educators decreased versus a year ago. For an in depth look at the numbers, be sure to check out the full report.

Retaining Faculty and Staff

In addition to salary decreases, the survey also found that the number of full-time faculty decreased at over half of the colleges and universities surveyed. This number accounts for both faculty making the decision to leave the profession and those who have been affected by layoffs and furloughs.

As for why so many employees are leaving the profession, it could be a result of many factors, such as workplace changes (remote/ hybrid transitions), pandemic burnout, and aforementioned salary decreases. For those impacted by layoffs, it's mainly yet another unfortunate result of the pandemic.

Pandemic Impact on Higher Ed

Given the timing of the survey, the AAUP also compiled data on the colleges and universities' responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, many institutions were facing budget deficits and struggling to make ends meet. There were many job cuts, furloughs, hiring freezes, and salary reductions being implemented across the board. As with many other industries, the pandemic made matters worse—presenting colleges and universities across the country with significant revenue shortfalls. In response to the health crisis, institutions took a range of actions to face the new economic challenges. The AAUP survey asked participants to identify how many faculty members were impacted by the pandemic response at their institution. The findings paint an unfortunate picture of the impact of the pandemic on higher ed employees:

  • Furloughs: almost 10 percent of faculty
  • Salary freezes or reductions: nearly 60 percent of faculty
  • Elimination or reduction of fringe benefits: 30 percent of faculty
  • Non-renewal or termination of contracts: over 20 percent for non-tenure-track faculty and over 5 percent for tenure-line faculty

Overall, it's clear that the pandemic has significantly impacted higher education, putting additional pressure on an already struggling system.

Here’s Where HR Comes In

The role of HR in higher education is evolving, and the pandemic has only accelerated this change. As budgets for education continue to be tight, it doesn't seem like salary increases will be back on the table anytime soon. HR teams in the education space unfortunately need to find a way to do more with less. So, how can HR professionals get creative and develop an experience for employees that drives cost savings across the board?

A fresh approach to benefits.

Benefits are at the epicenter of solving many challenges and obstacles facing HR teams at colleges and universities today. While many institutions are looking to expand benefits packages to offer more opportunities to save on healthcare and drive financial wellness, this alone won’t help faculty and staff save on costs.

If benefits are really to drive cost-savings, employees need to not only have options, but truly understand their options. The real challenge facing HR teams is streamlining benefits education, increasing participation, and ensuring that employees are getting the most out of those benefits. The best benefits package in the world will fly completely under the radar if employees aren’t educated about their options.

This is where Nayya comes in.

After gathering an understanding of an employee’s mental, physical, and financial needs, Nayya offers a step-by-step experience that delivers a personalized recommendation of best-fit benefits plans. Challenging the status quo of holding a myriad of educational webinars, sharing a series of disparate and lengthy PDFs, and communicating inefficiently, HR teams at Colleges and Universities are in a position to save valuable time, drive cost savings, increase participation, and boost organizational confidence in benefit decisions with Nayya.

Similar to how TurboTax enables the everyday consumer to file their taxes with confidence, Nayya offers a consolidated benefits experience that removes complexity and empowers individuals with education and confidence to make the right decisions during enrollment. After a less than 10 minute questionnaire, employees are presented with a personalized recommendation of the medical, financial, and voluntary benefits that best align with their mental, physical, and financial needs.

Nayya puts HR teams in a position to drive cost-savings for both employees and employers—giving you the best of both worlds. Benefits decisions are the single most important financial decisions employees make each year— 65% of employees across America have experienced an unexpected medical event or emergency, and 63% of those have faced medical debt as a result, research shows. HR teams can prevent medical debt and drive cost savings for employees by bringing in Nayya, which can demonstrate the impact that different plans have on potential health and financial scenarios that may arise throughout the year. Additionally, Nayya can help employees understand exactly how much money will be coming out of their paycheck, how much will be going into savings, and more, at the point of enrollment—eliminating any cost confusion. Nayya helps HR teams create savings for your overall organization by delivering on plan migration and increasing participation across both traditional and voluntary benefits.

Guesswork has no place in higher education. Help your faculty and staff make informed, confident benefits decisions during enrollment and drive cost-savings for all members of your organization.

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